South Lake Tahoe trio ramping up hammock, backpack business | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe trio ramping up hammock, backpack business

Three South Lake Tahoe men are tapping their passion for outdoor recreation to drive their business efforts, and with their fledgling company, Bakpocket Products, trying to help outfit other campers, hikers and adventurers. Bryan Burnam, Jacob Hanneman and David Williams run Bakpocket, a company launched 18 months ago that offers a growing collection of hammocks and backpacks, as well as handbags, slings, duffels and other accessories such as beach blankets and rain flies. All of the products are made with lightweight and highly compressible, yet strong, parachute material. A Kickstarter campaign started this weekend aims to raise $20,000 to help the trio launch a half-dozen new products, start offering online sales and get the company into major trade shows in a push to expand into larger stores and markets. "We're kind of building upon what we've already done and introducing some new ideas," Burnam said. "We're excited about it." To sweeten the company's online crowd-funding effort, contributors who pitch in $100 will get a hammock, a reusable shopping bag and a pocket daypack that turns from a shoulder bag into a backpack with the pull of a zipper. Burnam, who was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, founded the company with Hanneman, who grew up in Southern California. The two met at Humboldt State University where Burnam was studying oceanography and Hanneman was studying to be a fisheries biologist. They switched into outdoor recreation majors after hearing from friends who were out hiking and camping for class, and eventually deciding their own passions and interests were in that field more than in the sciences. "A week after (Hanneman) joined I was still sitting in class looking through microscopes, and he was calling me and sending me photos from all his camping trips," Burnam said. "They were learning some really cool ecological practices as well, which I felt were a bit more practical in my day-to-day life. I stuck it out the rest of the year and then decided to switch to recreation as well." Burnam and Hanneman created a business plan for Bakpocket Products for their senior class project at Humboldt State University and later teamed up with David Williams, the company's president, who also grew up in South Lake Tahoe. "We made like 45 hammocks our first time. They sold in a flash and we were kind of amazed. We sold them to friends at school and from there it just kind of jumped into the senior project," Burnam said. The hammocks offer a lightweight, comfortable alternative to tent camping and can be set up in places a tent is just not possible. The trio has been refining and expanding their product line ever since they started the business, testing gear and doing R&D while in the field on their own outdoor adventures. Bakpocket Products are available in 20 stores in Northern and Southern California, a list that includes outdoor retailers, surf shops and even organic groceries, as well as Grass Roots Natural Foods, Sports Ltd. and Lake Tahoe Outfitters here in South Lake Tahoe. Based in a California mountain town that touts itself as a year-round playground for outdoor recreation, Bakpocket has developed a local following in its first 18 months in business. Angela Moniot, a lifelong hiker and camper in the Sierra Nevada, said she's one of the young company's biggest fans. She has most of its products: a hammock for a good night's sleep on the trail, backpacks to haul it and other gear and a blanket for a day at one of Tahoe's sandy beaches. "What I love most about my Bakpocket products is the convenience," Moniot said. "It's like carrying your life in a little pocket. You can bring your ultra-light backpack, blanket, hammock or bag with you anywhere, yet their functionality and durability is not compromised by their compact size." David Williams said it's been fun to watch people take a liking to the gear that he, Burnam and Hanneman are creating. "It's just a good feeling to see the product in people's hands and hear the reviews. All of our friends love them. It's awesome," Williams said. The company's products have also spread to other parts of the world. A Bakpocket bag was recently spotted at the World Cup in Brazil. Other bags and hammocks have been seen in Alaska and Australia. Customers have filled the company's Instagram stream with snapshots from around the world showing that "home is where your hammock's hanging." "The other day a woman called us up and wanted to buy a couple of our shopping bags. She said she was down in Costa Rica and bumped into somebody on a tour bus who had our product and gave her our information," Burnam said. While getting out into the great outdoors with their own hammocks and trying to grow their business's reach in California and beyond, Burnam and Williams said it's also great to be back home in South Lake Tahoe and active in not only the recreation community, but the business community. "I was born up here and this is something I never thought would happen. You look at Tahoe and you want to strive to live here, but the career is hard to find," Burnam said about his move back to the area. "This is something we could bring back and I'm really stoked to be here and really doing what Tahoe is all about, backpacking and being outdoorsy." * * * Bakpocket Products' Kickstarter campaign is available at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bakpocketproducts/adventurers-hammock-use-a-hammock-lose-the-tent

City loan helps new businesses

Calling all businesses. Here’s your chance to put the city of South Lake Tahoe to work for you. The city is offering loans for business start-ups, working capital, real estate buys, equipment upgrades and inventory expansion out of the Housing and Economic Development Department. Two businesses have been approved for $83,000 in funds from the 1999 state grant. One of them, Mt. Tallac Brewing, figures to gain $40,000 that owner Jeff Walker will use to hire two employees, buy bottling equipment and pay operating expenses. Beer brewer and distributor Walker is overwhelmed with trying to run the business and create his pale ale. He’s willing to hire someone who excels in math and science as an apprentice, if this worker can lift a 55-pound bag of grain. Walker, a chemistry major in college, swung open his doors on Eloise Avenue last January. Now, his beer flows on the Tahoe Queen and lifts the spirits of bar patrons at Dixon’s and Mott’s Canyon for which this California licensed distributor has signed on a Nevada distributor. The 42-year-old Walker, a brewer since 1985, is watching over a fermenting amber brew that will be ready in two weeks. “I sank everything into my business,” he said, referring to financial commitments that have stretched him thin in the first year. Walker applied for a loan with an unnamed bank, but he was turned down. “It’s the people who don’t need it who get the money,” he said, sending kudos to city department assistant Andrea Burnam for organizing the program. “She went out of her way and walked me through it.” To Walker, the program is “definitely worth checking out.” More than $166,000 is available under the grant that kicked in last July, Burnam noted. The city has one more year to sign up other prospects for the money borrowed at fixed interest rates that fall below conventional bank financing and above West Coast prime. “Our goal is to make local businesses aware of it,” Burnam said. “We’re finding there is a need.” The criteria for qualifying includes the creation of one job for every $20,000 borrowed. Like the beer distributor, businesses that were denied loans through traditional banking institutions may make the grade. Company owners and managers with experience in the type of business applying for funds will be given notable consideration from the loan committee. Prospects may also receive free assistance in developing a business plan, an entrepreneur’s version of a graduate student’s thesis. “We’ve had no applications for start-up businesses, and again, it’s there for that. But we’ve had inquiries,” said Burnam, who signed on for the civic responsibility in April. Under the 1999 business loan grant, the city applied for more funds from the state than its 1997 grant covering the period from January 1998 to August 2000. “(And) that grant was dormant because we were understaffed (to handle it)” Burnam said regarding the 1997 grant. The city will accept all applications and consider all types of business. “We’re helping business get back on its feet again and hire to help the economy,” said Burnam, who approached the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce to get the word out about the program. South Lake Tahoe Chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace said the program helps the local economy two-fold by boosting business and putting people to work. “Businesses here can use any help they can get,” he said.

More charges could be filed in hit-and-run case

More charges may be filed against a 42-year-old man from Stateline accused of hitting and killing a woman with his car in September. David Keith Burnam was arrested Sept. 21 and booked for felony hit-and-run after police traced debris left at the scene of the accident to a 1998 white Jeep Cherokee which Burnam reportedly owns. Guia Orbeta, a 66-year-old from Daly City, Calif., was found Sept. 10 unconscious on a sidewalk next to U. S. Highway 50 west of Pioneer Trail. She was pronounced dead that night at Barton Memorial Hospital from blunt force trauma to the right side of her body. “We’re trying to get reconstruction of the accident, which will be done by CHP or police,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Detective Martin Hewlett. “Forensic work and accident reconstruction will determine if any additional charges will be filed.” Hewlett said Orbeta was hit while walking on the shoulder of the road around 9:30 p.m., a place where pedestrians have right of way. She was returning to a motel after spending time at Stateline casinos. “(Burnam) said he was driving east on U. S. Highway 50 at the time the accident occurred,” Hewlett said, “however he didn’t remember being involved in any accident.” Burnam posted a $15,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled Oct. 24.

Tahoe Police arrest hit-and-run suspect

Police arrested a 42-year-old Stateline man for allegedly hitting a woman the night of Sept. 10 with his 1998 white Jeep Cherokee. Guia Orbeta, a 66-year-old from Daly City, Calif., was found unconscious with a head injury, lying on a sidewalk just west of U.S. Highway 50 around 9:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at Barton Memorial Hospital. South Lake Tahoe police said they discovered David Keith Burnam had taken his Cherokee – the type of vehicle they believed to be involved in the incident – to a Carson City body shop Sept. 11 to inquire about having front-end damage repaired. Employees of the body shop, who had read a newspaper article regarding the hit-and-run, told police they became suspicious when Burnam asked them to keep the repair a secret. Police traced the license plate number recorded by the body shop to a Meyers residence at the 1200 block of Ottawa Avenue. Investigators found Burnam, a former Meyers resident who has since moved to Stateline, at the address Thursday and took him into custody around 9:35 a.m. for felony hit-and-run. “He said he was driving east on U.S. Highway 50 at the time the accident occurred,” said Detective Martin Hewlett. “However, he didn’t remember being involved in any accident. There’s no indication that he was impaired while driving.” Investigators began searching for a 1997 or newer Jeep Cherokee with front-end damage after tracing automobile debris they found near Orbeta. She was visiting South Lake Tahoe with several relatives who had dropped her off at Stateline casinos Sept. 10. Her family members reported her missing to Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at 3:15 a.m. Once South Lake Tahoe police learned of the report, they were able to identify Orbeta.

Emotions run high at sentencing

Friends and family of a former Lake Tahoe woman wanted punishment and closure for her accidental death. After the sentencing of the man who hit Guia Orbeta in September 2000, the family said they are still searching for peace. David Keith Burnam was sentenced to six months in El Dorado County jail and five years probation for the hit-and-run death of Orbeta, 66. El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow, who presided the sentencing, wrestled with the decision he called, “one of the hardest cases I’ve had to deal with as a judge.” Burnam was accused of striking Orbeta with his 1998 white Jeep Cherokee on the night of Sept. 10, 2000, and not stopping after the incident. Orbeta was left unconscious with a head injury on a sidewalk just west of Highway 50. The mother of six children later died at Barton Memorial Hospital. Burnam, a Stateline resident, was accused of the crime when he took his car into a Carson City body shop. Employees called the police after remembering a newspaper article regarding a hit-and-run vehicle with front-end damage. Prosecutor Anthony Sears, of the district attorney’s office, and defense attorney Richard Specchio opted to forego a trial. At the start of the two-hour sentencing, Lasarow allowed Orbeta’s siblings and friends to speak to the court. Gaudioso Orbeta, one of Guia’s sons, said the most difficult and painful part of the death was identifying his mother’s body at the morgue. “I felt like my very own life ended,” he told the court. Marilyn Rodriguez, the fourth daughter of Guia, told a story of her 8-year-old son who stopped eating after his grandmother’s death. Rodriguez is one of four nurses in the family who pursued the career in response to Guia’s warm influence and guidance. She said she became elated when her son finally decided to eat after he dreamt his grandmother instructed him to resume eating. “I would like to let go of my mom,” Rodriguez said in tears. “This time I’m letting go of my mom. I want this man who killed my mom to go to state prison because the only time I could forgive him is when he is 6-feet under the ground.” Burnam was dressed in a white shirt and tie with his blonde hair combed back and a goatee covering his mouth. He had no prior criminal history, is a devoted father of two young children and worked three jobs. Burnam said he was tired and groggy when he struck Guia, and claimed he did not remember the event. He said he shouldn’t have been driving. He cried his apology to the family. “I would just like to say how sorry I am,” Burnam said. “If I could take back that weekend, I would. If I would have known I would have stopped, I swear. There’s nothing this court could do to me that I haven’t done to myself in the last 18 months, thinking about what happened. “I ruined a lot of lives. I apologize.” Guia was described as a loving soul who enjoyed making loads of food for people and never uttered a derogatory word about anyone. She lived at Lake Tahoe from 1979 to 1987 before retiring to the Bay Area to be closer to her children. Gaudioso Orbeta shared his family’s anger over the sentencing. “We are very unhappy with the decision,” he said. “We feel he got away with murder. We feel like we’ve been victimized again.”

Live at Lakeview starts sixth season on Tahoe’s South Shore

One of Tahoe's free, live, lakefront music series kicks off on the South Shore on Thursday, June 22, at 4:30 p.m. That's right — Live at Lakeview returns for its sixth season this week with performances from local five-piece Mescalito and Portland's Scott Pemberton Band. "Scott Pemberton is a big favorite and a huge force in the music scene right now. We're excited to have him back," said Leslie Schultz, marketing director of On Course Events, the company that produces the concert series. The evening will be one that celebrates blues-rock sound: Mescalito plays hits from genre frontrunners including The Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton and Neil Young, while Pemberton's blend of funky surf rock, jazz and blues will have you grooving throughout the night. During the course of the summer series, which continues each Thursday through Aug. 31, attendees can expect to hear a mix of sound ranging from reggae to Americana, Latin, soul and more. "We're really excited to have an all-time summer — the lake is higher than it's been in a long time, which creates an amazing backdrop for the fantastic bands we have coming in. There's a lot of new music, which is really exciting, but we have some favorites returning as well," Schultz noted. Those who have attended Live at Lakeview in years past will recognize returning headliners Pemberton, Diego's Umbrella and the Wesley Orsolic Band. Apart from the three, the 11-week series showcases the talent of musicians new to the Lakeview Commons stage. "A new one you don't want to miss is Afrolicious. They're an incredible funk band from San Francisco who is also going to be at the High Sierra Music Festival. They're all over the festival scene, but you get to see them here first and for free," Schultz said. In addition to live music, Live at Lakeview welcomes a variety of vendors that allow guests to shop local merchandise and food. Last year's all-new hammock lounge returns for the entire 2017 series thanks to Bakpocket Products. The area gives concert-goers the chance to lay back and relax while listening to tunes. "Not a lot has changed [over the years], but what's grown is the support from the community over the last six years. That's completely the reason the concerts are able to happen. The support from the city of South Lake Tahoe in providing the venue, all the way down to smaller sponsors who you see at the bottom of the poster — it's a tribe," Schultz said. Live at Lakeview is held at Lakeview Commons, located at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Lakeview Avenue. Parking is limited, and an off-site lot is available at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center (1180 Rufus Allen Blvd.). Walking and biking are strongly encouraged, and the venue hosts a free bike valet each week. "We are dedicating the bike valet to Rocky. He was a gentleman on our crew who recently passed away in a bike accident. He set [the valet] up every week for the past few years, so this is an opportunity to talk about bike safety too," Schultz explained. Additional information about the free summer concert series is available at http://www.liveatlakeview.com.

Junior Midget, Peewee football teams prepare for regional finals

With 1,223 yards rushing for the year and 17 total touchdowns, it’s hard not to focus exclusively on Danny Suarez on South Tahoe’s Pop Warner Junior Midget football team. His name comes up more than any other when it comes to the score. But he’s not the only threat on the Junior Midget Vikings, who are now 10-0 and headed for their first Pacific Northwest Division III regional championship. Running back Roger Brown has 250 yards rushing for two touchdowns and Colin Cason has 235 yards for one touchdown. The strong offensive line of tackles Ryan Jaurequi and Josh Tuttle, guards Morgan Villescas and Nick Forrer and center Jake Baker make the offense hum. They’ve allowed quarterback Ryan Woods to complete 25 of 42 passes for 584 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s also run the ball courtesy of some key blocks for two touchdowns. Run, run, run — you’d think that with the rushing numbers they’ve racked up the only way the Vikings can score is on the ground. However, key to their success is a passing game, which helps diversify the offense. Wide receiver and tight end Brian Burnam has caught 10 passes in eight games for 283 yards and six touchdowns. He’s even with Suarez in receptions but has amassed more yards and three more touchdown receptions. Anthony Stagnaro has also caught two touchdown passes. He’s amassed 80 receiving yards on four receptions. The Vikings back up a strong offense with an equally impressive defense. They’ve outscored their opponents 241-97. Coach Russ Woods said Suarez, Brown, Lee Williams and Joey Krueger have been strong linebackers. Defensive ends Anthony DeMetri and Shayne Rowe have also had strong seasons. But if you asked coach Woods, he’d tell you all of the defensive players have had an impressive year, which is why the team is undefeated heading into the regional championship. Jaurequi said his line has improved this year in tackling, playing hard and staying low, which is important because “you don’t get knocked over and you don’t get hurt,” he said. The Vikings will play Nov. 23 for the title against the Medford, Ore., Indians at 2 p.m. Peterson Junior High School in Sunnyvale, Calif. Coach Woods said he knows very little about Indians, not having the opportunity to scout, which is something he’s done against many of the Vikings’ opponents this year. The mystery will easily present the Vikings’ biggest challenge. About half of the team is used to playing for the regional championship, since they are first-year junior midgets, coming off a peewee regional title in 2001. They haven’t shied away from the older, heavier weight division. They’ve amassed more confidence, said Ryan Woods, which is why they’re throwing the ball. For Against Total Points : SLT 241 OPP 97 Record 10-0 Rushing Leaders Carries Yards TDs Danny Suarez 89 1223 14 Roger Brown 33 250 2 Colin Cason 36 235 1 Blaine Inglis 14 83 1 Robert Varik 22 111 – Receiving Leaders Receptions Yards TDs Brian Burnam 10 283 6 Danny Suarez 10 135 3 Robert Varik 6 82 1 Anthony Stagnaro 4 80 2 The Junior Vikings Peewees stand to break from Division III to Division II if they win the Pacific Northwest regional title for the second time in a row as Peewees and the third time in a row counting Junior Peewees. If the Vikings win back-to-back regional titles in the same age/weight group, the whole South Tahoe Pop Warner program moves to Division II, and will play larger programs in Reno Carson and Sparks. Division II also is large enough to go nationwide with a final national championship in Orlando, Fla. And if ever there was a Viking team to do it, this is it. The Peewee Vikings racked up more than 2,500 yards on offense this year, allowing only 259 yards against. They’ve outscored their opponents 282 to 40 in wrapping up another undefeated league season. “We’ve got one last door to kick in this weekend and we bring home a three-peat,” said head coach Steve Klug Jr. Klug said the team has had continued success with the “phenomenal” coaching success of Steve Klug Sr., Mark Shehadi, Cooley Jackson and Matt Kezer. The team has also piled up impressive individual stats, Klug said, but he preferred to highlight the success of the team, not just a few individuals. The Peewee Vikings battle the Ashland, Ore., Bears Saturday at 10 a.m. at Peterson Junior High School in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Junior Midgets overcome Reno

A halftime deficit only seemed to bring out the best in the South Tahoe Junior Midgets last Friday. Trailing by a touchdown, the Junior Midgets produced the only two scores of the second half to defeat the Reno Vikings 19-12 in Sparks. Chris Klug scored the tying touchdown on an 8-yard run in the third quarter and Kevin Lucero’s point-after-touchdown run put the Junior Midgets ahead to stay, 13-12. In the fourth quarter, Klug blocked a punt and Chris Ewing recovered in the end zone. Lucero rushed 20 times for 170 yards and Klug had 89 yards on 14 carries. Leading the defense were Lucero, Klug and Roman Bedwell with interceptions. Zack Vereschagin, Gary Prescott and Lau Noble also played key roles on defense, according to assistant coach Steve Klug Sr. South Tahoe (3-2) plays Douglas tonight at 8. Peewees fall to Carson Silver The Carson Silver Peewees outscored South Tahoe 20-0 in the second half for a 26-0 victory last Saturday in South Lake Tahoe. “We played good football the first half of the game, making it close, but turnovers and special teams really hurt us in the second half,” said South Tahoe coach Mike Williams. The Peewees (2-4) have a bye this week. Jr. Peewees hold Tigers below average Douglas defeated South Tahoe Junior Peewees 34-0 last Friday, but the winners didn’t score as many points as usual. Coming in with a 40-plus points per game average, the Tigers found the end zone more elusive than usual. Tanner Burghard, Cody Ivey, Tyler Slater, Cody Shindlebower, Brandon Jones, Rigel Garmen and Zack Tierney stood out for thet Junior Peewees, said coach Casey Tierney. The Junior Peewees (1-6) play Carson Blue tonight at 8 at Governor’s Field in Carson City. Midgets tie Truckee South Tahoe’s Midgets played to a 13-13 tie against Truckee last Saturday in South Lake Tahoe. Truckee scored the tying touchdown at the beginning of the fourth period but the home team stopped the extra point. Roger Brown and Bryan Burnam scored for the Midgets. Brown, Ryan Jaurequi, Morgan Chambers, Rio Delucia, Josh Augenfeld, Shane Rowe and Jack Garratt led the defensive effort, according to assistant coach Dave Jaurequi. “We played really hard and showed a lot of improvement. The only thing killed us were penalties,” coach Jaurequi said. South Tahoe (2-3-1) plays at Douglas tonight at 6.

Oil hits new record as investors flee the falling dollar

Oil prices surged to record highs today as the weakening U.S. dollar drove up investments in commodities. Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose as high as $114.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange before retreating to $113.74 by the afternoon in Europe, down 5 cents. The contract closed at a record $113.79 a barrel Tuesday and then jumped in after-hours trading to an all-time high of $114.08. In London, June Brent crude contracts were down 6 cents to $111.52 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange, after setting a new record of $112.35 earlier in the session. Analysts said the oil increases were being caused by record lows for the dollar “$1.5966 per euro ” as higher inflation in the euro zone practically eliminated the chances of an interest-rate cut by the European Central Bank. Annual inflation in euro nations rose to a record 3.6 percent in March, boosted by higher prices in transport fuel, heating, dairy products and bread, said Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency. It is the highest inflation rate in 16 years. Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland said there had been a “very strong correlation” between rising oil prices and the weakening dollar in the last few months, which appeared to have been broken at the start of this week. “Monday and Tuesday crude oil managed to move ahead without the help of the dollar,” Jakob said. “But once we broke above 1.59 euros per dollar and as we move toward 1.60, there’s going to be more buying coming into oil.” Analysts said growing investor demand for commodities ” which have performed better than other financial instruments ” also propped up prices. “This is really driven by investors purchasing oil because returns have simply outpaced those of stocks and bonds,” said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. Shum said he didn’t think supply and demand fundamentals were that strong, but added that “oil’s price rise seems unstoppable.” Oil’s recent run above $100 a barrel has been largely attributed to speculators, as a steadily depreciating U.S. currency drives investments in hard commodities such as oil and gold. Traders were awaiting the release of U.S. data Wednesday on the state of America’s petroleum supplies. Last week’s EIA report showed an unexpected drop in crude inventories, which started oil on its way to several records. The U.S. Energy Information Administration was expected to report that crude inventories grew 1.5 million barrels last week, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy research arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. Gasoline inventories were expected to decline 2 million barrels, to post their fifth consecutive weekly drop amid increasing demand for the fuel, the survey showed. “Implied gasoline demand typically starts to increase at this time of year, but high prices at the pump and a slowing U.S. economy appear to have dented the pace of demand growth,” the Platts report said. Analysts also projected a 1.7 million barrel drop in distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel, while refinery utilization rates were expected to jump 0.9 percentage points to 83.9 percent. “The market may choose to focus on the expected product drawdowns and interpret the report as bullish,” Shum said. “But product inventories in the U.S. are at healthy levels. The declines would simply be because refinery utilization operating rates have not been strong, and that’s because refiners are responding to weak demand.” Crude prices were also supported by reports of a number of supply disruptions. Attracting the most attention was the closure of Mexico’s three main oil-exporting ports on the Gulf Coast because of bad weather that started Sunday. Only one of the ports remained closed Tuesday, according to Mexico’s Communications and Transportation Department. In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures added 3.11 cents to $3.3050 a gallon while gasoline prices rose 0.25 cent to $2.8835 a gallon. Natural gas futures were up 0.5 cent to $10.210 per 1,000 cubic feet. ” Associated Press writer Gillian Wong in Singapore and Aoife White in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.

Nevadan develops real-time electricity monitoring device

Bill Littlehales, of Incline Village, has invented a tool that could save you money on your power bill. His corporation developed a half-pound box that can be plugged into a wall outlet to display the monthly cost of energy being used in the home. It looks small, but it could save you $30 to $40 a month. “It tells you how much you’re paying in real time – like a gas pump,” said Littlehales, 74. It takes about five minutes to install, with no rewiring. Littlehales used his mechanical-engineering background to construct the Power Cost Display and a transmitter that is installed on the utility meter panel. The home owner sets the kilowatt-per-hour rate into the box, which is 11.9 cents in Carson City, and watches the digital meter climb with each switch that is flipped. Friends envious Those who have it in their home, love it, and their friends are envious. “It’s a topic of conversation,” said Dave Noble, assistant staff counsel for the state public utilities commission. He had a Power Cost Display system installed in his Incline Village home about three months ago as a test. “When friends are over, they all want to know what it is. They all want one.” After he saw how much one 100-watt incandescent light bulb cost – $7 a month – he switched to compact fluorescent bulbs – $1 a month. When Noble gets home from work, his display reads $100, which is after the heat kicks on. When his wife, Jennifer, uses the oven to cook dinner the display goes up to $300. After dinner it hovers between $180 to $250 except when the hot tub heat turns on, increasing it to $800. Thankfully, that’s only on for two hours a day. A microwave can cost $120 a month; a toaster $112. “I’ve become much more aware because you can glance at it and you know right away if you’re using more than normal for the house,” said Noble, whose electricity bill is usually about $150. He’s seen it decrease to $130 since installing the system. Cost-saving tool Roger Collins, a retired Lockheed Martin executive of 32 years, who lives in Kelseyville, Calif., believes this product is a cost-saving tool. He’s the chief executive officer for Energy Control Systems. “This is a psychological devise for people who want to save money, billionaires may not care, but normal people will,” he said. The inventor demonstrated the product recently using a space heater and two high-beam lights. He turned on the space heater and the digital meter flashed $113. That means, leaving the space heater on for 30 days will cost the home owner that much a month. Turn on one of the lights and the red numbers increased to $115. The 24-hour, 30-day display is the one that gets people’s attention most, Littlehales said. “You just saved $3 right there,” he said, after turning off one of the lights. He turned off the space heater. “Or $113 right there.” Customers save, the corporation profits. They think it could make about $1.9 billion in its life, based off new-home construction numbers in the U.S. They have invested $100,000 initially into the product and have no debt. Energy Control Systems is revving up for a marketing campaign driven by one goal: They think this tool will lower power bills 15 percent to 25 percent at a time when energy costs are skyrocketing. “It’s about giving people control of their energy bill,” said Michael Bertrand, a Carson City accountant and chief financial officer of the corporation. Brown-outs and overburdened utilities could be a thing of the past, the developers muse. “We’re aware of their product and what it does,” said Sierra Pacific Power Co. spokesman Karl Walquist. “The engineering folks want to make sure technically that it works properly and is compatible.” The invention took about five years from design to working product. After several prototypes, Littlehales installed the latest version in his Incline Village home – and saw reductions in his power bills, even though he admits he’s “bad about turning stuff off.” He’s developed products most of his life and has had about eight patents, three on automated HIV detection devises. It took a dentist to get the Power Cost Display into homes. Littlehales was getting a teeth cleaning when Dr. Richard Klein, owner of Sierra Cosmetic Dental Center in Carson City and Incline, asked him this question: “So, what are you doing these days, have you had any good ideas?” Klein and Littlehales started up Energy Control Systems and took the product to Southern California Edison, an investor-owned electric utility. It has tested several similar systems, but has not committed to the Nevada corporation. They’ve also presented it to the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. Unit to cost $380 Littlehales’ patented, Underwriters Laboratories-approved unit will cost $380 retail. They hope to have it available in limited areas though programs with utility companies. They plan to install about 150 units in new homes built by Syncon in Minden. Syncon officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment. One of the biggest challenges facing new products is mass distribution, said Dave Archer, managing director of Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. “If you can work with a big home builder, you can make one sale and they will put it in all homes, but with a store like Home Depot, first you have to convince them to carry your product and then Home Depot may say they want to carry it in all their stores. You’d have to ship out X-thousands of units,” he said. That isn’t a concern for Littlehales. He expects to sell Energy Control Systems to a larger corporation. How to save a buck (or a few) on your electricity bill: n Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Don’t forget your computer – it can use as much energy as a refrigerator. Most new computers have “sleep” settings. n In the cold months, set the thermostat to 68 degrees when home, and then back to 58 degrees when sleeping or when you’re not home for more than four hours. n In the winter, open window coverings on the sunny side of your home to take advantage of “free heat from the sun.” Close the coverings on cloudy days or right after the sun sets. n Use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer and cook as late in the evening as possible. n Set your water heater to 120 degrees. n Vacuum your refrigerator coils (underneath and in the back) and don’t obstruct the coils. They need air space to work. n Keep your freezer as full as possible. You can place containers or plastic bottles filled with water in the empty spaces. n Make sure food is cool and covered before it goes into the refrigerator. n Clean the reflectors underneath the burners on stovetops. n Unplug your televisions/VCR when you’re on vacation. Most new sets draw power even when they’re turned off. n Use compact fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones. This will typically save $1 per bulb changed out (for bulbs running 4-6 hours per day) and reduce heat in your home. n Plant trees and shrubs on the south and west side of your home. The vegetation acts as insulation and provides shading, reducing thermal gain in a building. n Fix leaky faucets and install low-flow shower heads. n Replace normal thermostats with programmable thermostats. – Source: Sierra Pacific